The Big Street (1942)

88 or 92 mins | Melodrama | 4 September 1942

Director:

Irving Reis

Producer:

Damon Runyon

Cinematographer:

Russell Metty

Production Designers:

Albert D'Agostino, Albert Herman

Production Company:

RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
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HISTORY

The opening title card reads: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in Damon Runyon's The Big Street . The working titles of this film were It Comes Up Love and Little Pinks . According to news items in HR , the production of the film was delayed because of a lack of suitable female stars at RKO. The studio negotiated with both Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Arthur for the female lead; Arthur declined. Modern sources note that Damon Runyon finally demanded Lucille Ball, whom he had met through Carole Lombard, be given the lead. Another item in HR adds that Ball's participation in the film was jeopardized when the studio suspended her for refusing to go on loan to Fox for Footlight Fever (see below) because she objected to fourth billing. Ball was coached by New York dance director Chester Hale, according to HR . On the basis of her performance in this film, Ball was offered a contract with M-G-M, according to modern sources. Henry Fonda was borrowed from Fox for the male lead. Other news items in HR note that Harry Perry shot background scenes in New York City and Miami. This was director Irving Reis' last film before joining the military. Modern sources add that Ball's singing voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. The character of "Nicely Nicely" also appeared in the novel Guys and Dolls which was made into the 1934 Warner Bros. film A Very Honorable Guy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; ... More Less

The opening title card reads: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. presents Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in Damon Runyon's The Big Street . The working titles of this film were It Comes Up Love and Little Pinks . According to news items in HR , the production of the film was delayed because of a lack of suitable female stars at RKO. The studio negotiated with both Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Arthur for the female lead; Arthur declined. Modern sources note that Damon Runyon finally demanded Lucille Ball, whom he had met through Carole Lombard, be given the lead. Another item in HR adds that Ball's participation in the film was jeopardized when the studio suspended her for refusing to go on loan to Fox for Footlight Fever (see below) because she objected to fourth billing. Ball was coached by New York dance director Chester Hale, according to HR . On the basis of her performance in this film, Ball was offered a contract with M-G-M, according to modern sources. Henry Fonda was borrowed from Fox for the male lead. Other news items in HR note that Harry Perry shot background scenes in New York City and Miami. This was director Irving Reis' last film before joining the military. Modern sources add that Ball's singing voice was dubbed by Martha Mears. The character of "Nicely Nicely" also appeared in the novel Guys and Dolls which was made into the 1934 Warner Bros. film A Very Honorable Guy (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40 ; F3.4910) and the 1955 film Guys and Dolls . More Less

BIBLIOGRAPHIC SOURCES
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
15 Aug 1942.
---
Daily Variety
5 Aug 42
p. 3.
Film Daily
7 Aug 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Dec 41
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Feb 42
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Feb 42
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 42
p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter
18 Apr 42
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Apr 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jun 42
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
5 Aug 42
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
8 Aug 42
p. 826.
New York Times
14 Aug 42
p. 13.
Variety
5 Aug 42
p. 27.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and Orchestra
Juan Varro
Chester Huntley
Johnny Indrisano
James O'Gatty
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Background photog
FILM EDITOR
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Special dance cost for Miss Ball
Gowns
MUSIC
Mus score
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
DANCE
Dance dir
MAKEUP
Makeup dir
Miss Ball's makeup
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "Little Pinks" by Damon Runyon in Collier's (27 Jan 1940).
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Who Knows?" music by Harry Revel, lyrics by Mort Greene.
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Damon Runyons The Big Street
Little Pinks
Release Date:
4 September 1942
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 13 August 1942
Production Date:
late April--mid June 1942
Copyright Claimant:
RKO Radio Pictures, inc.
Copyright Date:
27 July 1942
Copyright Number:
LP11532
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
88 or 92
Length(in feet):
7,962
Country:
United States
PCA No:
8385
SYNOPSIS

On the corner of Broadway and 50th Street in New York City, an eating contest is about to begin, pitting Nicely Nicely Johnson against Joe Duffle, when Nicely Nicely comes down with an upset stomach. Racketeer and nightclub owner Case Ables has bet $20,000 on Nicely Nicely, and to save Ables' investment, busboy Augustus Pinkerton II, known as "Little Pinks," suggests substituting his friend, Violette Shumberg, for the ailing Nicely Nicely. In the midst of the contest, Ables' girl friend, nightclub singer Gloria Lyons, enters the club with her little dog Baby. When Baby runs away, Pinks chases it, causing Violette to lose the contest and Pinks to lose his job. Feeling guilty over Pinks's loss of employment, Gloria arranges a job for him at the club in which she works. Pinks, who idolizes the self-centered Gloria, begins to address her as "her highness." When he begins to send her flowers with unsigned cards, Gloria, whose motto is "a girl's best friend is a dollar," thinks that her secret admirer is millionaire playboy Decatur Reed. One night, as Gloria is leaving the club with Decatur, Ables slaps her down the stairs and sends her to the hospital. Gloria's fall leaves her crippled, and through her long months of convalescence, only Pinks and Ruby, her maid, remain by her side. Ruby pawns Gloria's jewels to pay the hospital bills, and when that money is exhausted, Pinks invites her to stay at his apartment. Pinks' friends, Violette, Nicely Nicely, Horsethief and Professor B, stage a homecoming party for the ungrateful Gloria, who orders them out of the apartment. Soon after Gloria moves ... +


On the corner of Broadway and 50th Street in New York City, an eating contest is about to begin, pitting Nicely Nicely Johnson against Joe Duffle, when Nicely Nicely comes down with an upset stomach. Racketeer and nightclub owner Case Ables has bet $20,000 on Nicely Nicely, and to save Ables' investment, busboy Augustus Pinkerton II, known as "Little Pinks," suggests substituting his friend, Violette Shumberg, for the ailing Nicely Nicely. In the midst of the contest, Ables' girl friend, nightclub singer Gloria Lyons, enters the club with her little dog Baby. When Baby runs away, Pinks chases it, causing Violette to lose the contest and Pinks to lose his job. Feeling guilty over Pinks's loss of employment, Gloria arranges a job for him at the club in which she works. Pinks, who idolizes the self-centered Gloria, begins to address her as "her highness." When he begins to send her flowers with unsigned cards, Gloria, whose motto is "a girl's best friend is a dollar," thinks that her secret admirer is millionaire playboy Decatur Reed. One night, as Gloria is leaving the club with Decatur, Ables slaps her down the stairs and sends her to the hospital. Gloria's fall leaves her crippled, and through her long months of convalescence, only Pinks and Ruby, her maid, remain by her side. Ruby pawns Gloria's jewels to pay the hospital bills, and when that money is exhausted, Pinks invites her to stay at his apartment. Pinks' friends, Violette, Nicely Nicely, Horsethief and Professor B, stage a homecoming party for the ungrateful Gloria, who orders them out of the apartment. Soon after Gloria moves in with Pinks, Violette and Nicely Nicely marry and move to Florida. When Pinks tries to offer encouragement to the self-pitying Gloria, she proposes to make him her butler once she has married Decatur. After Gloria demands that Pinks take her to Florida to recuperate, the devoted busboy pushes her wheelchair down the "big street" to Miami, where they stay with Violette and Nicely Nicely. There Gloria orders Pinks to buy her some fancy pajamas so that she can go to the beach in style. Instructing Pinks to pose as her houseboy, Gloria suns herself on the beach and meets Decatur, who is unaware of her condition. Upon seeing Gloria in a wheelchair, Decatur loses interest in her, and she blames Pinks for her misfortune. Disgusted, Pinks walks out on her and finds a job as a busboy. When he learns that Ables is managing the club in which he is employed, Pinks slugs the racketeer for his treatment of Gloria. At that moment, Violette appears with news that Gloria is sick, and Pinks rushes to her side. The despairing Gloria confides to Pinks that she dreams of spending one last night attired in a bejewled gown. When the doctor warns that Gloria's only chance for survival is the restoration of her hope, Pinks sets out to find the dress. Seeing it worn by socialite Mimi Venus, Pinks sneaks into the Venus house, where he overhears Mimi being blackmailed by one of Ables' gang. The man threatens to expose Mimi's infidelity unless she allows their syndicate to steal her jewels. After snatching the gown from Mimi's closet, Pinks dons a mask and demands the thief's stolen jewels. Pinks then visits Ables and threatens to expose him to the police unless he agrees to hold a private party at his club in honor of Gloria. Following Pinks's instruction, Ables issues invitations to Decatur and the other socialites. Horsethief, Professor B and Pinks's other friends who have migrated to Florida make sure that they attend. On the night of the party, just as Gloria is introduced to her guests, the police, who have found Pinks's social security card in Mimi's closet, come to arrest the busboy. Explaining Gloria's situation to the police and Mimi's husband, Colonel Venus, Pinks begs for one last night of freedom. When the colonel learns of his wife's infidelity and Pinks's devotion, he insists upon dropping the charges and gives Pinks a set of tails to wear. As Pinks speaks to the police, Nicely Nicely tells Gloria of the busboy's predicament, and she finally comes to recognize his sacrifice. Pinks then appears at Gloria's table, and after he lifts her up, the two "dance" and she confides that she is finally happy, voicing one last desire to climb the stairs and gaze at the ocean. Gloria then collapses and dies in Pinks's arms, and he carries her up the stairs to fulfill her final wish. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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